My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On Sunday, Nov. 20, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, finishing in four and a half hours. It was my 22nd marathon in 22 years! It was a challenging race. The temperature was 40 degrees at the start of the marathon a nd winds throughout the morning gusting up to 24 mph. The course was sort of a big loop, starting and finishing in the center of the city near the Philadelphia Art Museum, so that meant some of the time the wind was in my face and some of the time it was at my back. Fortunately, the last six miles were mostly downhill and with the wind at my back!
Fundraising has always been a big part of my marathon running, with people pledging donations of a specified amount that they choose to give per mile. Over the years, I have had donors contributing as much as $100 per mile, or $2,620 for the whole 26.2 mile marathon! As in the past, my designated charity in our diocese was the Lex Cordis Endowment Fund, which supports Catholic Charities Legal Services. This year we received $12,367.59 from 137 donors.
The endowment fund takes its name from my episcopal motto, Lex Cordis Caritas, which is Latin for “The Law of the Heart is Love.” We were able to begin Catholic Charities Legal Services here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in 2013 due to a generous bequest that stipulated that the funds had to be used for the poor. Donations are still needed every year to build up the endowment fund so that the program can grow to meet the increasing demand for legal services for the poor. If you did not have a chance to donate before my marathon last week, your donations will still be gratefully accepted!
Providing legal services for the poor has long been a special interest of mine, motivating me as a newly-ordained priest to study civil law to acquire a practical tool to help the poor. I co-founded the Chicago Legal Clinic on the south side of Chicago and I am pleased that we are now also offering free legal services for the poor here in our diocese through the regional offices of Catholic Charities.
My reason for running the marathon in Philadelphia was to run with the LIFE Runners, an international pro-life running organization with almost 5,000 members from all 50 states and 29 countries around the world. We run with shirts that proclaim, “Remember the Unborn” and that refer to the Scripture passage in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Our motto is: All in Christ for Pro-Life!
Most of our LIFE runners who were running in Philadelphia arrived on Friday night for our traditional pre-race pasta dinner. Many of our members ran the half-marathon on Saturday morning. Later in the afternoon, we prayed in front of the Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Philadelphia. Afterwards I was the main celebrant for the Saturday evening Vigil Mass attended by the LIFE Runners at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
Those of us who ran the full marathon on Sunday morning were cheered on by our members who ran the half marathon on Saturday. Many of our LIFE Runners had to return home on Sunday, but several of us were able to stay for the fundraising dinner for the Philadelphia Pro-Life Union, attended by over 1,300 people on Sunday evening.
It was fitting that we were there on the weekend of the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pro-abortion or “pro-choice” people (as they like to call themselves) often complain about abortion restrictions saying, “It’s my body; no one can tell me what to do with my body.” Actually, that is the fatal flaw that underlies their whole position: it is not their body; our bodies are not ours, they belong to God! The very meaning of “Christ the King” is that everything belongs to God!
“Christ the King” means that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. “Lord” means that He is Master of all that we have and all that we are. My body, my money, my vocation, my life — everything — belongs to God. “Savior” means that He came to save us, not Himself. We can see that in the Gospel account of the two thieves crucified with Jesus. One of them said, “If you are a King, come down from that cross and save yourself!” Jesus did not come down from the cross, because unlike earthly kings who are primarily concerned with their own benefit, Jesus stayed on the cross to die for our sins because He was concerned with our salvation. We are called to give ourselves completely to Christ our King because He has given Himself totally for us.
May God give us this grace. Amen.